People & Places

Iowa couple hopes to provide a home for rescued farm animals

Shawn and Jered Camp sit on their couch Dec. 23 with Dora, one of their five dogs, in North Liberty. The Camps are working to establish a farm animal sanctuary in the area. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
Shawn and Jered Camp sit on their couch Dec. 23 with Dora, one of their five dogs, in North Liberty. The Camps are working to establish a farm animal sanctuary in the area. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

An Eastern Iowa couple is hoping to provide a home for unwanted farm animals that might otherwise be killed.

Shawn and Jered Camp of North Liberty are searching for land to establish a farm animal sanctuary.

They’ve already established a registered, nonprofit Iowa Farm Sanctuary, set up a board of directors and begun fundraising. Now they’re looking for a place where they can care for animals usually raised for food on Iowa farms.

Farm animal sanctuaries exist throughout the country, but the couple wants to start one in Eastern Iowa.

A few years ago Shawn Camp, 29, read, “The Gentle Barn,” a book about a farm animal sanctuary in California. She looked for a similar place to support locally but couldn’t find anything.

“The wheels started turning. We were just trying to figure out our path in life, and this was just kind of the calling,” she said.

Since creating an Iowa Farm Sanctuary Facebook page, the Camps have had people reach out to them with animals they could take in — a calf that was unlatching its gate, an escaped pig, a cow with a broken leg. Other potential rescue animals include chicks hatched for Easter, petting zoo animals that no longer are wanted, animals raised by hobbyists who can no longer care for them and 4-H animals the owners don’t want to sell for slaughter.

Jered Camp, 34, knows they are signing up for a lot of hard work. He grew up on a farm in Utah, where his daily chores as a child included taking care of livestock. He plans to keep his job as a paramedic at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, but Shawn Camp will give up her job as a manager at Red’s Alehouse in North Liberty to dedicate her attention to the sanctuary. They also plan to work with a veterinarian for medical care and advice.

“It’s going to be our life, day in and day out,” Jered Camp said.

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Buying land is the final piece of the puzzle to launch the sanctuary. The couple has been searching for about a year, but finding just the right place has been tricky. They’re looking for flat land and would like to stay within 30 miles or so of Iowa City. Ideally, they hope to find 20 acres, with 7 as the bare minimum. They plan to buy the land, which they also will live on, with their own money. Donations will go to medical care and food for the animals.

They’re acting out of a passion for animals, both said. The couple has been vegan for the past two years, and Jered Camp was a vegan for six years.

They see a lot of resources for traditional pets such as cats and dogs and want to provide the same efforts for goats, cows, pigs and chickens.

“We’re not promoting or pushing a vegan agenda on anybody with the sanctuary, that’s not our plan,” Jered Camp said. “We want a place where people can see the animals and a place where they can live free.”

They hope to include an education component and have the sanctuary open for visits, especially from children.

“When people say they’re vegan, a lot of flags go up and people think it’s this very negative thing,” Shawn Camp said. “But when there’s a sanctuary, it brings people in. They can see the animals running around and playing.”

Learn more about the Iowa Farm Sanctuary at iowafarmsanctuary.com.

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